OMAHA, Neb. –
Kellogg’s has reached a tentative agreement with its 1,400 cereal plant workers that will deliver 3 per cent raises and end a nearly two-month-long strike if the deal is approved.
The five-year deal with the Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union also includes cost of living adjustments in the second through the fifth years of the contract and it maintains the workers’ current health benefits, the company said Thursday.
Kellogg’s workers who have been on strike since Oct. 5 will vote on the new contract Sunday. The company said it expects the results to be announced early next week.
The new deal covers workers at all four of Kellogg’s U.S. cereal plants, which are located in Battle Creek, Michigan; Omaha, Nebraska; Lancaster, Pennsylvania; and Memphis, Tennessee. They make all of the company’s well-known brands of cereal, including Frosted Flakes and Rice Krispies.
The tentative agreement also addresses the two-tiered system of wages that had been a sticking point for the union. The system gives newer workers less pay and fewer benefits and it includes up to 30% of the workforce at the plants. The Battle Creek-based company said the agreement will allow all workers with at least four years of experience to move up to the higher legacy pay level immediately and some additional workers would move up in the later years of the contract.
Union President Anthony Shelton thanked all the members of the bargaining committee in a statement but he said workers “will have the final say on the contract.”
Outside the Kellogg’s plant in Omaha, Eric Dwornicki said it is encouraging to see that a tentative agreement was reached, but the details of the deal will determine whether it will pass.
“We want to go back to work, but we don’t want to be taken advantage of,” said Dwornicki, 35, who has worked at the plant for nearly 10 years.
Dan Luers, who’s father worked at the plant for 22 years, said at least the agreement is a sign of progress after nine weeks on strike. Luers, 32, has worked at the Omaha cereal plant for 10 years.
Jerry Ellerman celebrated the 17th anniversary of when he started at the plant and his 50th birthday on the picket line in Omaha, but he said the strike won’t end unless it is a good deal.
“I’m willing to stay out here if it’s not fair,” Ellerman said.
The company took a hard line with workers during the strike.
Last month, Kellogg’s went to court in Omaha to secure an order that set guidelines for how workers behave on the picket line because the company said striking workers were blocking entrances to its cereal plant and intimidating replacement workers. Union officials denied any improper behavior.
The company has been using salaried employees and outside workers to keep its plants running during the strike, and it threatened last week to begin hiring permanent replacements for some striking workers.
But the union held out for higher wages after employees had been working long hours — more than 80 hours a week — over the past 18 months to keep up with demand during the coronavirus pandemic. And workers believed that the ongoing widespread worker shortages across the country gave them an advantage in the negotiations.
In another recent strike, more than 10,000 Deere workers secured 10% raises and improved benefits before returning to work last month.